Using writing, and meditation, and ice cream, and reading, and dreams,

and a whole lot of other tools to rediscover who I am,

after six years living with a man with OCPD.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chap 3 - Performance Pitfalls
Deadly Deadlines

This post continues with Performance Pitfalls: Deadly Deadlines, from Chapter Three.

This series will look at a small snippet of The book on the Perfectionist Personality, aka The Obsessive Compulsive disordered Personality, aka OCPD, each week. Please follow along, leave your comments, engage more on the FaceBook website... whatever your heart calls you to do.

Too Perfect, When Being in Control Gets Out of Control by Allan E. Mallinger, M.D. and Jeanette DeWyze was published by Random House in 1992.  If you believe you are dealing with OCPD or someone who is "Too Perfect," whether that's you or a loved one, please buy a copy of the book and read it for additional insights that will not all be covered in these excerpts.

Performance Pitfalls
Besides putting many obsessives under enormous pressure, the Perfectionist's Credo an cause other insidious damage.  It often propels obsessives into self-defeating behaviors that far outweigh the rewards of avoiding errors.


Many perfectionists chronically have trouble getting their work done, or even started.  They tend to procrastinate because all tasks loom large when they have to be done flawlessly.

<snip> Once a task is undertaken, the perfectionist always finds room for improvement.  No matter how much time he spends on a project, there's always the chance someone will catch an incomplete or erroneous detail.  So he holds on to it, spending far more time than necessary.  In his mind, the danger is in letting go of something before it is truly perfect.  Under this pressure, some perfectionists actually miss their deadlines, while others meet them but pay a terrible personal cost.

<snip> This patient wanted every sentence to be profound, and she couldn't write down a single word until she was absolutely certain it was the right word.  Ironically, the longer the writing took, the higher she felt others' expectations would be, so the self-imposed pressure mounted with each passing

Over and over, I've heard patients describe being frozen into inaction by the awesome imperative to do a task not just perfectly, but in a way that truly impresses or astounds - in other words, to be "great."  I have to stress that most of the time the obsessive doesn't walk around consciously thinking that he or she must tower above other people; acknowledged consciously, it sounds pretentious.  But whenever I question, point by point, why she can't stand an oversight in her presentation or why he can't stand to be seen as an average attorney (or designer, or chef, or teacher), a submerged desire to astound people with his or her knowledge emerges.

Not only can the imperative to be great inhibit one's day-to-day functioning, but it can also, paradoxically, discourage one from developing one's talents - sometimes at a tragically early age.  I think of Janine, a gifted twenty-seven-year-old architect who consistently had trouble undertaking important projects because she as convinced she had to "produce a design so innovative that it stands everyone on their ears."  Even sadder was Janine's' outlook for her future.  "I had to many plans, so many fantasies," she told me.  "But because my work has to be incredibly good, it takes infinitely longer to execute somethng than to simply think of doing it.  I feel like I've wasted the last two years.  Anything I do now will be less than what I fantasized I would do.  So now it feels like there's no use."


The "everything-including-the-kitchen-sink" thinking, is, I think, one of the markers of this condition - the lack of working filter.  On a report, say, those with OCPD really can't sort out which things are most important,  which things are less important, and which things are frills to throw in, if there's time, or as an illustrating anecdote.  Everything ever known about the subject must be included.  Which means a confusing mess, much of the time. 

Then, of course, if a task is never finished, it can never be criticized, because, of course, it's not finished.  (Like my current novel - though I am getting critique on the unfinished bits.)  And you don't have to start on any new projects, because the old project isn't done, are you crazy?

This was why my ex could rarely be persuaded to start some new project.  His favorite excuse being the garden - and when there's a big yard, you can always find trees and bushes that could use a trim, weeds that need pulling...  The yard was never perfect enough to move on to something else.

I find that I tend to procrastinate on things I don't enjoy doing.  Like filing.  Housecleaning.  I find ways to get around that, like playing some "get up and move" music, but still, sometimes it's hard beating the inertia.

So I can empathize, to a certain extent, how much harder it must be for those with OCPD to get the ball rolling.  And yet, part of me just wants to scream:

Because if one just pitched in and got-er-done, it would take so much less time and energy than all the excuses.

Anybody with me on that?